Are Streets for Families to Travel Safely or for NYPD Squad Car Storage?

Photo: Doug Gordon

It’s just one short block of Bergen Street in Prospect Heights, but the guerrilla bike lane birthed by local resident Ian Dutton has become an object lesson in the conflict between NYPD’s use of street space, on the one hand, and New Yorkers’ safety on the other. On Saturday, when BrooklynSpoke’s Doug Gordon snapped this photo, the bike lane was functioning beautifully, with orange posts keeping it free from encroachment by the nearby 78th Precinct.

The next day, with the posts shifted a few feet to the right, police had once again taken over the bike lane to store a squad car. Anyone riding by on this major bike route would have to swerve into traffic.

Photo: ## Hudson/Flickr##

Cops parking where they don’t belong is hardly limited to this spot. The city’s sidewalks, bus lanes, bike lanes, and general traffic lanes are routinely obstructed by squad cars or placarded vehicles. The notable thing about this piece of DIY street engineering is that it has compelled police to take an extra, willful step to appropriate the public right-of-way. The street was functioning fine, thanks to a few well-placed plastic sticks, but apparently a functional street only lasts so long next to a precinct house.

  • Jeff

    We have the same problem in Portland. 

  • Ben Kintisch

    Someone is endangering my life by parking his car illegally in the bike lane! I’m gonna call the cops!
    Oh, wait… is the cops.

  • J

    The police think that streets are for whatever they feel like they should be for. I asked a cop recently in the precinct near my house about the sidewalk littered with police cars, and he said “It’s our sidewalk”. And you know what, he’s right. No one in power is doing anything to tell them otherwise and there’s no oversight, outside the department. Bloomberg and Quinn are certainly not watching over the police.

    Keep reporting this. It’s disgraceful to our city the way the NYPD treats our streets and sidewalks. Seriously, it’s like a third world country around police and fire stations, where no one has any respect for the law.

  • Matt

    “official business”

  • Guest

    The headline is a totally unfair question. There’s nowhere else to put those vehicles for the time being. Unless you’d rather they build lots at the precincts? 

  • J

    @abb249055208c7af4d35568e422dfd63:disqus Many of the precinct DO have parking lots, and they still park on the sidewalk

    Yet, in other precincts, the police somehow manage to not park on the sidewalk, DESPITE limited parking:

    This is not a question of supply and demand, it’s a question of politics. If the NYPD needs more street parking, they we should provide more designated on-street parking. However, there is no push at the local level to actually allocate a reasonable amount of street space to legitimate police parking needs, because it would come at the expense of free parking. It is also difficult to even find out what reasonable police parking needs are, since there is no incentive for the police to ever not drive to work, and there is nothing stopping them from gratuitously breaking the law if they run out of space.

    Without any oversight at the NYPD, this will never change.

  • D.

    @abb249055208c7af4d35568e422dfd63:disqus It’s a fair question. If you’ve got a temporary situation, just park in that white diagonally striped area, leaving space on the left for bicycling, and space on the right for driving.

  • Guest, if there’s no where else to put those vehicles, they could park in one of the two car lanes, no? Or in one of the four lanes on Flatbush. But that would block drivers, people would complain, politicians would ask them to stop, the media would run stories on it, and the police would go back to parking in the bike lane and on the sidewalk.

  • Joe R.

    Here’s my local precinct:

    Despite the huge parking lot, note the scooters on the sidewalk, and improvised “back-in angle parking” which utilizes some sidewalk space.

  • Andrew

    Only indirectly related, but this morning I was in Lower Manhattan (corner of Whitehall and Bridge), where I witnessed a disturbing scene. While a pedestrian was crossing Bridge, a car came flying around the corner, nearly hitting the pedestrian, who slapped the hood to get the driver’s attention. The driver stopped the car with inches to spare and grabbed the pedestrian by the shoulders. The situation fortunately quickly simmered down as the two waited for the police.

    When the officer arrived (female – I didn’t see her name), she clearly wasn’t concerned with the pedestrian’s story – I heard her repeat the usual claim that she is unable to issue a traffic violation that she didn’t personally witness. She was very concerned, though, with the possibility of damage to the car, gladly accepting witness testimony (“He’s crazy! He punched the car six times!”) from a group of people who I don’t think had even seen what was going on. As she left, she warned him that he would have been charged if there had been damage to the car. (The driver was not warned to drive safely or to obey traffic laws.)

    This is in the 1st Precinct, which issued a whopping thirteen “Not Giving R of W to Pedes.” summonses in June.

    My guess as to what happened: while the officer was taking the pedestrian’s statement, the driver walked up to a group of bystanders down the block (where he had moved the car) and offered to pay them to give witness testimony. Tomorrow, he is going to “discover” damage to his hood, and the pedestrian will be charged, based on the witnesses’ testimony.

    Ray Kelly, where are you? How has the hood of a car become so much more important than a human life?
    The car, by the way, had an FDNY placard.

  • Guest

    Other @abb249055208c7af4d35568e422dfd63:disqus – two issues…

    1 – there are safer places for them to park if they must temporarily park in an undesignated spot

    2 – if they routinely need additional parking, space should be legally designate for that purpose

    3 – I have absolutely no doubt that if you check the space that has already been designated, they are extending the “courtesy” of free parking to friends, family, groupies, etc. who have no business being there and have no credentials to even park in that location legally.  In fact, I have little doubt you will find hand-written notes for officers whose placards have been revoked after they were documented using them to break the law.

  • Anonymous

    1. The Cops Don’t Need You,
         And man, They expect the same.
          – Bob Dylan –

    2. We don’t pay enough for the cops we need.
        And we pay too much for the cops we got.

    3. A fish rots from the head.  (attn. Mr K and Mr B)

    4.  NYPD cops did training duty with police in Iraq.
    NYPD cops LEARNED from Iraqi cops, not the other way around.   🙁

  • It’s always the cops and they just don’t know what they do to get situations much worse.


The Jay Street Bike Lane Won’t Work If NYPD Parks All Over It

As crews restripe Jay Street to implement a curbside protected bike lane, some sort of learning curve is to be expected. Drivers need a little time to adjust to the new parking lane, which floats to the left of the bike lane buffer. But NYPD should know better from the start. Streetsblog reader Brandon Chamberlin snapped the […]

Eyes on the Street: Drivers Retake the Kent Avenue Bike Lane

DOT reconfigured the southern part of the Kent Avenue bike lane this spring, but that hasn’t stopped drivers from taking over the lane and the sidewalk for personal parking. A reader took this photo earlier today. He writes: I bike from LIC to Clinton Hill every morning and use the Kent Ave bike path. Luckily […]